COVID-19 conditions have promoted discussion around remote working. Working from home isn’t always a viable or preferred option. Some commentators have suggested that a return to the office in the way it was is unlikely and that working from home will become the norm, not just a COVID normal.
Why you might you love it
- No commute to work other than maybe a walk down your hallway
- Flexibility to the max – provides more options to where you live
- Meals and snacks whenever you like
- No one looking over your shoulder to supervise you
- Dress code is relaxed
- Working while kicking back in the sun or around the pool outdoors
- Heightened focus with no disturbances from others
- You can prepare a meal, put a load of washing on, do odd jobs, even venture out to the local shops
- Easier to time manage because you can decide when and how you communicate
- Additional time to spend time with and care for family and pets
At first glance these benefits make a compelling case for working from home but it’s not for everyone and the downsides may outweigh the upsides for some. A determinant of which side we might fall on could be a function of our personality traits and behavioural preferences. For instance extraverts often thrive in the company of others, bouncing ideas off their colleagues, being overtly connected and exuding infectious enthusiasm. Whereas introverts may prefer a more pensive, quieter and sometimes solitary work environment. But it’s too simplistic to relegate the virtues of working from home to just personality attribute stereotypes. There are multifaceted reasons why working from home doesn’t suit everyone, even for the most solitary of us.
Why you may hate it
- You rely on or need overt and public recognition
- You draw energy from the physical presence of others
- You seek inspiration and drive innovation from bouncing ideas in face to face collaborations
- You’re not tech savvy
- You dislike having to manage your own admin and phone calls
- You struggle with no defined start or end to your work day
- You like to socialise, join conversations and enjoy casual chats around the water cooler
- You don’t have a suitable or private work space e.g. small apartment, no study or noisy family life
- You find it difficult to express your thoughts and feelings over technology interfaces, seek frequent support and guidance and intensely dislike video meetings
- You value the wide range of office facilities such as meeting rooms, the latest ergonomic desks and chairs, automatic fast photocopiers and endless supplies of stationary
Leaders may need to find new ways to lead
Working remotely also presents unique challenges for leaders and managers. For example, the ability to hover and tune into the mood of the workplace are excellent leadership practices to track real-time employee engagement. The physical presence of leaders and their followers facilitates a holistic connection which is highly beneficial to promoting high performance and productivity. Working remotely does make it harder to lead and leaders may need to explore new ways and develop skills to build a connection with employees. Career conversations are one of the most powerful ways to get to know employees, build trust and support them with career guidance at a time when employees might need their leaders’ help the most. Career conversations can be effectively conducted remotely. My book, ‘Career Conversations: How to get the best from your talent pool’ (Wiley 2019) provides a step by step guide to how leaders can develop the skills to hold effective career conversations.
It’s up to you
No matter what your individual work preferences may be some aspects of work may have changed permanently as a result of this global pandemic. It has presented opportunities and challenges for leaders and followers alike. Overlay this with rapidly advancing technology and workplace change is inevitable. However while technology may have moved on the needs of humanity haven’t. Productive career conversations, a growth mindset and solution focused approach make a sound basis for crafting our destiny to take advantage of a rapidly changing workplace. Ultimately, what we do with the challenges and opportunities lies in our own hands.